One of my favorite movies is ‚Love…actually‘. I admit I have a weakness for romantic comedies, and this one has everything a good romantic comedy needs: dramatic gestures, Christmas miracles, fucked up rock stars, and- of course- Hugh Grant. It is part of my yearly Christmas routine to watch that movie and I enjoy it very much every time. There’s really only one thing wrong with it: IT’S ALL A BIG FAT LIE!!
People watch that movie, or any other Hollywood love story for that matter, and they mistake it for reality. In fact, over years and years they get conditioned by the media to follow this certain mindset and eventually start to believe that ‘this is how love works’. Not even consciously, but on a subconscious level. And who can blame them? Everybody enforces this mindset, our society as well as our family and peer group.
I do however believe that this promotes a lot of wrong ideas, short cuts to happiness that are not worth taking and will eventually lead to disappointment.
I therefore picked three common misconceptions that our society borrowed from Hollywood movies and explain how they keep us from finding the perfect match.
1. “You complete me”
The idea of having someone who makes us whole is hopelessly romantic, absolutely beautiful and- complete bullshit. As nice as that concept sounds in movies, in reality this is the worst frame to come from. Because what does that imply? That someone isn’t complete before. That we are looking for someone to fix us. And, worst of all, that we just want someone that we can use to overcome our own problems. There is no way a relationship can ever work if it is based on expectations like that. It furthermore usually indicates a general scarcity of other options. If you don’t date anyone before and then feel completed by dating someone new, chances are that the feeling of being complete doesn’t in fact have anything to do with the partner you’re dating itself, but rather with dating anyone at all!
That’s why it is crucial to be completely satisfied with your life, to feel completely at ease before you meet a partner. If you ‘need it to work’, it never will. But if it is just a nice bonus to an already awesome life, an awesome life that you are willing to share with somebody, then chances are good that it will work out. This way you can enjoy each other’s company without actually depending on it. It takes the pressure off, prevents from power imbalances in the relationship and gives you the opportunity to fully be yourself.
2. “You are special” (aka “You’re the one”)
Of course everyone who is in a relationship thinks that he/she is dating someone special. Because that’s the whole point of being in a relationship, being with that ‘special’ someone, right? But just how special is this partner really? Let’s play a little numbers game here: Most people meet their partner through their social circle, which means through university, work or other activities like sports and clubs. If there is even the slightest chance of ever communicating or hanging out with them again, I believe that it is fair to say that we nowadays add them on facebook. So let’s assume someone has 400 friends on facebook. Then this is more or less the pool from which a new partner is picked. Still quite a lot, huh? But out of those 400, only half are the sex you are interested in. which leaves us with 200. Although of course not all of them live at the same place as you currently do. Most of the people who are in their mid-twenties lived in at least four different cities by then (home town, bachelor studies, semester abroad and master studies). And let’s be honest, since long-distance relationships are clearly a horrible idea (all the disadvantages of a relationship without any of the advantages), only ¼ of the 200 therefore remain an option. But from these 50 people which are left, about half are already in a relationship. So we are down to 25 options, and this is without even taking any of the oh-so-important characteristics like humor, hobbies, intelligence or physical appearance into consideration! When we do that too, there are maybe 5 people left, who are even remotely interesting. If we are lucky.
So when we finally pick someone we want to be in a relationship with, this one isn’t actually the “one in a million”- person we want him to be. It’s more like a “one out of five”.
Of course I know that this a bit of an over-simplification. But I’m trying to make a point here. People don’t have as many options as they might think, and deep down they know that. But instead of getting more options by meeting more people, they let their brain trick them into thinking that they met someone special when really they only met someone average. Why? Because it’s convenient to just stop looking for someone better. And because we want the Hollywood love story, we want the drama, we want the emotional rollercoaster. We want to feel special by having someone special. And we certainly want the happy end! Which brings me to the next point.
3. The happy end is just around the corner
There is nothing wrong with happy ends whatsoever, and I actually hope for one myself as well. Settle down with the perfect wife and two perfect children in a perfect house in the suburbs, happy ever after. But what most people don’t seem to grasp is that it is called ‘happy end’, with end being the operative word! And you don’t just get to jump to the end! Instead you have to spend years and years to meet hundreds upon hundreds of people, date A LOT of them and this way find out every little thing that you want and don’t want you future partner to be. You don’t just miraculously know all that when you’re 19, but promise your high school sweetheart to stay together forever nonetheless. You gotta pay your dues, you actually have to go out and make the experiences. And you do not get to settle until you eventually find that one special person, who is special judged on the enormous amounts of experiences you made before, and not just based on some vague feelings born out of scarcity and Hollywood kitsch.
But what do most people do? They want to have the happy ending right away, waste the best years of their lives pretending they have found it, only to get divorced when they’re 40. It sounds drastic, but facing divorce rates of higher than 50%, for me this can only mean that half of the people a) don’t actually know what they want for themselves or b) do not screen their partners carefully enough for those qualities.
I do not intend to shit all over love, quite the contrary. I think being in love is one of the greatest feelings in the world and sharing this with someone else is what makes life worth living. But in my opinion the term is used over-extensively, simply because everybody wants to be part of it. And even though it is of so high importance for almost everyone to be in love, most people are still not actually willing to put work into finding it. They either create a comfort zone by getting into a relationship with someone they like, because then they have a reason to stop looking for someone better. Or they are single, but create a comfort zone by always hanging out with the same people, always doing the same things, and just hoping and waiting for “the one” to suddenly magically appear. Either way they lose.
This is why I spend A LOT of time going out, meeting new people. To get to know them better. To get to know myself better. To somewhere down the road meet the perfect woman. And to have a lot of fun on the way there 🙂